Exercise: Stretching Before or After?

“Should I stretch before or after I exercise? Or both?”

This is a frequent question asked by my clients when we are talking about movement and exercise.

My job as a massage therapist is to assist my clients with sore muscles, sports injuries, and stress management. Regardless of what ailment a client presents with, we always discuss what they are doing for daily exercise. In this day and age, we all know that habitual exercise is crucial for our health and well being. Reasons to be physically active everyday include:

  • Feeling more energized
  • Burning more calories when at rest
  • Improving overall appearance
  • Ability to withstand stress
  • Improved sleep
  • Speed up recovery from injury or surgery
  • Decrease the risk of illness and injury
  • Keeping focused
  • Building up cardiovascular endurance
  • Improving flexibility and range of motion

The ability to perform daily exercise, requires our joints to be healthy enough to cope with consistent movement. Maintaining our flexibility, joint range of motion, and joint health comes down to the wonderful combination of exercise and stretching. Stretching our muscles has been proven to:

  • Improve your joint range of motion
  • Maintain joint health
  • Improve athletic performance
  • Decrease risk of injury (1)

Now that we have a better understanding of why stretching and daily exercise are so important, when should we stretch?

Stretching should not be considered a warmup. By stretching cold muscles, you increase the risk of injuring yourself. Instead, consider performing mobilisation techniques, which I will cover in my next blog. Stretch after your workout when your muscles are warm. Remember to focus on the main muscle groups that were used during your workout session. (2)

Research shows that stretching before a workout does not reduce muscle soreness in the days after. Other results show that lengthening the muscle and holding the stretch immediately before a sprint may slightly worsen performance. Consider skipping stretching before any intense activity, such as sprinting or track and field activities. Pre-event stretching may decrease performance and create weakness in the hamstring strength. (3)

Gentle stretching at the end of any exercise also gives you a great chance to catch your breath, be still, and reflect on the hard work you just achieved!

June 20th 2021

By: Sydney LaVine


  1. Harvard Health. (2019, August 26). Retrieved from Harvard Health Publishing: https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/why-we-should-exercise-and-why-we-dont

2. Stretching is not a warm up! Find out why. (n.d.). Retrieved 6 19, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/stretching/art-20047931

3. Taylor, K.-L., Sheppard, J. M., Lee, H., & Plummer, N. (2009). Negative effect of static stretching restored when combined with a sport specific warm-up component. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 12(6), 657-661. Retrieved 6 19, 2021, from https://sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/s1440244008000790